Molecular basis of ligand binding and receptor activation in the oxytocin and vasopressin receptor family

Exp Physiol. 2000 Mar;85 Spec No:59S-66S. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-445x.2000.tb00008.x.


Although it is now widely accepted that G-protein-coupled receptors exist in at least two allosteric states, inactive and active, and that the spontaneous equilibrium between the two is regulated by various events including the binding of specific agonists and antagonists, the molecular counterparts of these functionally different states are still poorly understood. In this paper, we review our current knowledge concerning the structure-function relationships of the oxytocin and vasopressin receptors, focusing in particular on the process of receptor activation. Using a combined approach of site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modelling, we investigated the molecular events leading to agonist-dependent and -independent receptor activation in the human oxytocin receptor. Our analysis allows us to propose that the active conformations of this receptor are characterised by similar rearrangements of its cytosolic regions that ultimately lead to the opening of a putative docking site for the G-protein. Furthermore, the dynamics of these motions are similar to that observed in the alpha1B-adrenergic receptor, thus suggesting that, although activated by different ligands, the process of receptor isomerization in these two receptors is regulated by the same cluster of highly conserved residues and that common molecular events are responsible for receptor activation in different G-protein-coupled receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mutagenesis / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / chemistry
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / genetics*
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / chemistry
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / genetics*
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Receptors, Vasopressin